Word Origin & History
1782, in the modern sense of "parchment-covered hoop with pieces of metal attached;" earlier "a small drum" (1579), from Fr. tambourin "long narrow drum used in Provence," dim. of tambour "drum," altered by infl. of Arabic tunbur "drum" (originally "lute") from O.Fr. tabour (see
). The sense evolutions present some difficulties, and in some 17c. and early 18c. references it is difficult to say what sort of instrument is intended. Earlier names for this type of instrument were tambour de basque (1688), also timbre and timbrel. Tambour itself is attested in Eng. from 1484.